Amechi Ramsey had only two points for the Whitfield Warriors, but his two points ended up being the biggest of the night.
Ramsey, a senior point guard for the Warriors, drained a pair of free-throws, giving his team a three-point lead with 59.4 seconds and Whitfield held on in the final minute for a 48-41 win at Duchesne on Wednesday in a key matchup of Class 3 powers.
“It’s not hard, my teammates have faith in me every time I step to the free-throw line,” Ramsey said. “It was a big relief. I was like we’ve got to finish this game. We’ve got to finish out out with the defense.”
Whitfield (13-4) won its sixth straight game but it was far from easy as the Warriors offense was held way below its normal average.
In most games, the Warriors get quickly into an uptempo attack with plenty of buckets off transition defense and rebounds.
Duchesne slowed the Warriors fast and furious offense down and forced them into a grinding half-court style of game.
The pace was exactly what Duchesne (12-5) wanted, as the Pioneers packed as many bodies in and around the paint as possible and forced the Warriors to settle for tough shots early.
“We want to keep everybody out of transition,” Duchesne coach Wade Bouslog said. “That’s what we tried to emphasize early in the year. We’ve been really successful when we can play half-court five-on-five.”
While the pace played into Duchesne’s hands, Whitfield was not fazed. Both teams packed the paint with extra defenders and that opened up extra shots on the outside. The Pioneers struggled and missed many of those shots.
“We didn’t hit shots,” Bouslog said. “I think we were 3 of 18 from three and that’s the bottom line. It’s one of those night where we didn’t make shots and we’ve got to do a better of of taking them.”
Duchesne held an 8-7 lead after the first quarter. Whitfield standout guard Torrance Watson, found his offensive rhythm early and got his teammates involved as well. The University of Missouri bound senior turned in a another well-rounded performance, pouring in 23 points, pulling down 8 rebounds, and dishing four assists.
“In the beginning, we didn’t get as many shots as we wanted, but we stopped them on defense as well,” Watson said.” So, even though it was a low-scoring game we made sure they didn’t score and that led to us winning the game late.”
Sophomore guard Max Holton and junior Aurelio Stucco came up big with key three-balls in the second half for the Warriors. Stucco hit back to back three-balls to give the Warriors the lead at 34-32 with 6:03 left and then again a 37-32 edge with 5:07 left.
“Different guys made some big plays whether it be Aurelio making back to back threes or Torrance finishing at the rim, so anytime you have a game with limited possessions and the score is close, every play counts,” Potsou said.
The biggest clutch stop came with 1 minute, 10 seconds to go when junior guard Ahmad McCray drew an offensive foul on Duchesne center Luke Loewenstein as Whitfield held a 41-40 lead.
The Pioneers had a one-and-one chance at the free-throw line and missed, but senior forward stole the loose ball from Whitfield’s Luther Taylor to keep the ball with Duchesne.
McCray then stepped into the lane and broke up a lob play the Pioneers were trying to run as he dropped to the floor, and drew a foul.
“Ahmad McCray makes so many hustle plays for us and he’s always in the right position at the right time and that leads to other teams having to do some things they’re not accustomed to,” Potsou said.
It was the clutch plays late in the fourth quarter that gave the Warriors the edge and left the Pioneers short at the end.
“We’re right there. You just make a couple of plays there and you’ve got a chance to beat that team and that’s the way it’s been all year,” Bouslog said. “We’re not going to play anybody better than a Whitfield or a St. Mary’s, so our kids have seen that and we’re not going to be intimidated by that.”
Moore topped the Pioneers with 12 points and 11 boards. Senior guard Mitchell Fairless scored 11 points. Moore added nine points. Loewenstein had a strong night on the boards with eight rebounds.